The East Kimberley is home to the Ord River, a tourist attraction in itself given the Ord Irrigation agricultural project has transformed the Lower Ord into fertile lands and thriving year round agriculture plains. The Ord River Dam is a part of recent history in the area and you can learn more about the region's waterways with tours around Kununurra and Lake Argyle.
The building of the Diversion Dam on Bandicoot Bar, Kununurra in 1962 channelled water to over 9000 hectares of farmland on Ivanhoe Plain from the newly created Lake Kununurra. This became known as Stage one of the Ord Irrigation Scheme.
Further upstream in the 1970s, an even bigger feat of engineering was soon to permanently transform the surrounding landscape. The completion of the Ord River Dam created Lake Argyle and bought a reliable water supply to Packsaddle Plain. This increased the area of farmland under irrigation to about 10,000 hectares.
In 1990 to deal with the increasing demand for electricity from expanding agricultural and mining activity, a hydro-power station was built at the base of the dam. Today the power station supplies renewable energy to the Argyle Village, Wyndham, Kununurra and the Argyle Diamond mine.
2009 saw a new chapter in the Ord Irrigation Scheme began with the construction of a major irrigation channel, more than 30 years after the Ord River Dam was built. The Government of Western Australia contributed $311 million for this work, with the Commonwealth committing $195 million for expanded and improved social and community infrastructure in Kununurra, Wyndham and remote Aboriginal communities.
In 2011 another 15,203 hectares of new agricultural land near Kununurra was released for development. This increased the total area of farmland in the East Kimberley to over 29,000 hectares with Lake Argyle supplying water to the entire Ord irrigation area.
Source: Water Corporation of Western Australia